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What Do Humans Want?
In the world and throughout history, humans have searched for a meaningful existence. Many have looked to accomplish this through an accumulation of wealth and found it unsatisfying. Why is this? Why has the accumulation of wealth looked so satisfying but then fails to satisfy? The answer is that the act of getting rich satisfies two of the things that humans want in life but confounds another important drive and then, simply having wealth only partly satisfies one. There are four basic drives in humanity but satisfying them all is difficult and they can often conflict with each other resulting in a course of action that satisfies at first, but then fails later on.
1. To be Effective The first thing that humans want is to be effective. It is inherently satisfying to be able to speak well, to build well, to do anything well. This is one of the very early satisfiers. At a very early age, we learn that work, when accomplished makes us happy. Of course the better you are at that work in relation to others, heightens this satisfaction. There is still some satisfaction to battling through a hideously hard task, but if its hard for other people and easy for you then victory is all the more sweet. To Be Right One of the ways we know we are effective is when we are right. Guessing the right answer or already knowing the answer. Our brain is one of our most important tools we have. Being able to use it well brings enjoyment and satisfaction. When taken too far the desire to be right ultimately leads to it’s own failure. No one can be right all the time. It is often the person that recognizes when they will be right and gets being wrong right by admitting what they can’t do that, finds the most lasting satisfaction.
To Win We know we are effective when we compete against others and win. This way we know how effective we are in relation to others. This is satisfying because it gives us a sense of what we should be doing. If you can do it better than anyone else then you are the most effective. This is a self realized satisfaction and it different than the recognition of effectiveness that is likely to immediately follow a competition. This can give a false sense of purpose however. Even though it can seem to be your purpose to do what you are very good at it does not substitute for real purpose.
To Fulfill One’s Duties In general this doesn’t mean all the tasks that a person is given. A duty is in essence a promise that has been made. These are the things that we feel we have a duty to fulfill. When we have done what is required of us we know that we were effective because we are in effect finished with the work that we have to do. This can also lead to a false sense of purpose in the case of the workaholics. The satisfaction of fulfilling one’s duties can make it seem like fulfilling those duties is what makes one happy and therefore doing more of it must result in more happiness. This often leads to an increase in the recognition that a person receives and so for a time, it really does bring satisfaction. However over time, the lack of recognition from one’s family can lessen the satisfaction that the person feels. In addition, the duties that a person had to fulfill are already fulfilled and so bring no further satisfaction. Focusing on fulfilling one’s duties can lead to a lack of simplicity as the promises made stack up. In the corporate world, this can often lead to a lack of Novelty due to repetition.
Lasting Effect Having a lasting effect is a very strong indicator of a person’s effectiveness since so many personal undertakings last for a very short time. To have something that persists in people’s minds or that has a physical persistence that can be attributed to one’s self brings satisfaction. The down side of this is that if a person feels the satisfaction of a lasting effect, they can fool themselves into mistaking their purpose for creating a lasting effect, that on examination will not last forever when taken to it’s extreme and then looses the satisfaction that it once engendered.
Recognition of Effectiveness In addition to being effective a large part of knowing we are effective is when it is recognized by others. This comes in multiple forms and would include the aftermath of winning a competition but also includes being paid a paycheck for work. In reality the satisfaction gained from any kind of wealth is because it may bring novelty but also because it is perceived as a measure of recognition for effectiveness. In reality though, monetary recognition is most appreciated when it results in fulfilling one’s duties or creating a lasting effect. In many cases recognition of effectiveness can be in the form of verbal statements from those that have no reason to praise dishonestly. This is especially important when monetary recognition has already satisfied a person’s duties. When putting the recognition of effectiveness as the gauge for a person’s self worth it can lead to a reduction of simplicity. This may not be recognized as a problem for some time since the satisfaction from recognition can continue until simplicity has been completely forgotten and complexity and stress bring any satisfaction crashing down. A second pitfall is mistaking recognition for purpose. This is so frequently done and in light of the conversation makes the least sense but anything that brings a measure of satisfaction is subject to being mistaken for purpose. However there are mountains of data that point to recognition of effectiveness not being a viable purpose. This includes rich superstars committing suicide, acting strangely, turning to narcotics and becoming disillusioned. The satisfaction gained in the recognition of effectiveness is not sustained but momentary. As a result this is one of the shortest lived effects. This leads to people trying to regain satisfaction that they momentarily felt when they were first recognized.
2. Simplicity Because human’s ability to process information is limited, complexity taxes the brain and therefore gives rise to stress. This leads to a desire for simplicity. This can directly conflict with a desire for novelty or when approached correctly can feed it. It can also limit a person’s effectiveness as work is often complex and demanding. Many have attempted to maximize simplicity to lead a satisfying life. However this often leads to a distinct lack in effectiveness. A balance must be struck between these two forces of any satisfaction initially felt is lost as we reach the point where the desire for one overrides any satisfaction from the other. We need to be as effective as we can, while maintaining the simplicity of our lives.
Natural Humans are well designed to handle the natural environment. Although forests, oceans and rock formations can be full of stimulus, we find them relaxing. Even though taking care of animals and plants add to the complexity of our homes, having them around is pleasurable as if our brain is saying “this is how it should be” to us. Taking in the feeling of simplicity we get from nature can also satisfy a desire for novelty when investigating nature or traveling to new locations. In some extreme situations the value derived from simplicity and nature has been mistaken for purpose. This correlation does not occur in many people.
Repetition Repeating what we know is a way of making complex things simpler. Breaking a job into repetitive tasks makes it easier for humans to handle. The first few times a task is attempted it may be difficult but over time becomes easier. Repetition may increase effectiveness but limits novelty.
3. Novelty Novelty is the desire for new experiences. These can come from external sources or from one’s self. We inherently desire a varied experience, not satisfied with endless repetition. Some novelty can be had as a result of the recognition of effectiveness. Much of the tech world is an effort to use monetary wealth as a way of introducing novelty. In addition, vacations to exotic locales can bring a feeling of novelty. By definition novelty cannot be repeated but themes can be used to a certain extent to make finding novelty easier. Many people go to great lengths to find ways of introducing novelty which can cause Simplicity to suffer. From Self Changing long standing behaviors is one of the ways that people often exhibit when desiring novelty. This can cause irrational behavior in some which is really just an attempt to do something different.
From External External sources of novelty abound in food, vacation destinations, entertainment and consumer goods. Any new or seldom experienced experiences along this line introduce novelty.
Employment is another place that novelty may be introduced when changing jobs and if there is a learning curve to the new job, the novelty can persist for the time from starting the job until the learning curve is peaked. Once this happens there is also a period of effectiveness which can extend the satisfaction felt for a time.
Adventure is very similar to other external sources of novelty but can be sustained for longer and has an element of effectiveness that can enhance satisfaction. However adventure can become tiresome after long periods.
4. Purpose Purpose may be the most important of the things that Humans want. For one it can be persistent, meaning that it can be sustained for long periods of time. The right purpose can last all of one’s life. That said, the purpose cannot be one of the other three things above and it must be wholly convincing to the person. If a person questions their purpose for long enough, then there can be no more satisfaction from the purpose. Either questions must be answered in a satisfying way or a new purpose must be found.
Goals are like short term purpose. They can give direction for a period of days, weeks or months. However an interesting thing happens with goals. Once they are set, the human mind sees forward to the point when the goal is attained. At this point the mind thinks it has already attained that goal. If the actual process of getting to the goal takes too long or progress is lost, the mind will notice and feel that it has lost something it once had. This can be good for getting a goal back on track as it serves as a motivator. If left too long or if the goal is now unattainable, there is a feeling of loss. Identity Having a sense of identity is closely tied with purpose. If someone’s identity can be quickly explained then there is satisfaction in that. If a person’s identity is so strong that it does not need to be explained then the satisfaction can be even greater. This can be summed up by the phrase “my reputation precedes me.” This is of course dependent on if the reputation is viewed as a good one.
Direction is something more than a goal and more encompassing than ones’ own personal identity. It is the why of one’s existence. This is often the place that one can look to find what their goals should be. This is also where most people get it wrong. They make one of the other three elements to form their direction, but as has been discussed in their sections they are all transitory. Only Direction is permanent.